Christmas

Fabulous At The Holidays

One of my dear friends is turning 60 this coming week.  I sent her a card and assured her it was going to be OK.  I may have been a total mess back in 2010, but with her mature outlook and strong leadership style she will likely only cry a little and get ready to keep on shining as she enters her 60s.  She has a high-powered job and lives in NYC – I think both these things will help Kathy transition smoothly.

Another of my dear friends is turning 70 next week.  She is beautiful, strong, determined and brave.  She just had knee surgery and is recovering from that agony with grace and little fuss.  Barbara has been a FabulousOver60 woman during this last decade.  How will she handle turning 70?  My guess is she’ll wince at her change in decades; and then proceed to do her 70s every bit as well as she did her 60s.  Not sure of the right adjective to use for the 70s yet.  Thankfully there is time for that to come to me as I spend my final 2 years in my sixties starting this January.

As I recover from a lovely Thanksgiving with only one major upset which is now receding into family history; and start getting into the holiday card, shopping and celebration season, I am reminded of some important wisdom. It is simply this: that any given day in our lives, especially the very hard ones, can be long.  But the years go quickly as we review the years of holidays past come late November and early December.  Which means, having great holidays are not only nice to have, but a must-have for our older selves.  We have no holidays to waste or energy to squander.  Here’s my big three ideas to make it so – please borrow whatever strikes you as sensible and doable for you.

 

Idea #1: Act with a light heart and extreme gentleness.  In this past year we have all seen more bad behavior from leaders at workplaces, in politics, or around one of our own corners than I thought was even possible.  Despite believing I have “seen it all” some of these outrageous acts have really shocked me.   Actions and language have been too rough, crude, and in some cases actually dangerous.  So my first plan is to meditate daily, pray frequently, and approach any actions this holiday with a light hand as well as heart.  I refuse to be drawn into any heated discussions or expose myself to negative energy and overall nonsense.  I am becoming as peaceful as possible and when interacting with anyone at anytime in the next weeks before the new year, my goal is to be soft and kind in every way possible.

Idea #2: Give what you can and want to, but don’t overdo. More simply, put happy boundaries on the holiday.  That means making choices.  I am definitely going to write and send cards – it is something I actually like doing.  It gives me a chance to reach out and touch people I am not able to see or visit with during the year.  Or, a chance to say something I have been meaning to say but just hadn’t had the opportunity to. I am not going to get overwrought with shopping though.  Am limiting who I buy for and what I spend.  There are so many amazing sales it really isn’t hard to act with a conscious and common sense.

My daughter Courtney just helped me out too.  She wrote that our Christmas in New York with all her husband’s truly wonderful family will include the “Secret Santa thing”.  For those of you unfamiliar with this approach, it works like this.  All the adults who are meeting on Christmas will draw names of one other adult who will be in attendance.  Everyone buys one gift for the person they “drew” and everyone gets one gift – a huge break for a fruitcake like me who would normally get something individually for each of the 20+ people who attend. Amen Angels – I thank you with all my heart.

In addition to my fruitiness and nuttiness and due to my compulsiveness I have already shopped for many of those who will be at the event now having a “Secret Santa approach”. SO, I can now use much of what I have bought early as gifts for other family and friends on my list.  Hurrah for me!!!  Forced by sensible relatives to take it all down a notch.

Idea #3: Keep events short, monitor drinking and eating, and spend loving but not too much time with any given family member or friend.  No matter what, the holidays can be stressful.  Sadness at lost family and friends can bring un-prepared tears and sadness; too much sugar and partying can drain our patience; and the volume of noise, running pets and multitude of people in small places can wreck havoc with even a normally calm person’s center.  So plan accordingly.  Going out to dinner one night?  Make the next evening simple, slow and low key.  Lots of visitors on one day?  Try to take in a movie the next day. Balance and pace the time to include all types of love and happiness, and keep it low key enough not to make yourself or anyone around you sick, irritable or grumpy.

Let me take this opportunity to wish you and all those you love and hold dear to have beautiful, peaceful and fun-filled holidays.  May there truly be peace on earth — good will toward each and everyone!

Patty

2017 Is Almost Here, But 2016 Keeps Surprising Me!

No, this is not going to be about the election.  If you are one of the 3 people who are still frequently following the news on the political front, God bless you, but don’t contact me.  I, like most, have temporarily shaken off “the real state of affairs” and put it on a shelf to deal with later… much later.

What I am talking about is how, even in these waning days of 2016, things are happening that seem uniquely odd, sad, strange and surprising. That which makes us wonder again and again: what’s going on with this crazy year?  Here’s a few situations from my own last week.

I hadn’t paid a bill on time and got a late charge and note from my account – Saks Fifth Avenue of all cards!!  Ah some things do NOT change.  In any case, I missed the payment in all the Christmas crazies but decided on December 26th to give them a call and start arranging to have money just taken out automatically.  A warm voice greeted me.

“Hi, I’m Helen from (popular credit card company), how can I help you?”

Helen needed my birthday to proceed and when I gave it to her (1/20/50 in case you may have forgotten), she got even warmer and said, “you know I have a January birthday too and turning 62 – and just think it is time for makeover/do-over of my looks”.  15 minutes later we were still talking about makeup for women in their fabulous 60s and I hadn’t even paid my bill.  Then we got “down to business” and she just told me she was waving my late fee and interest charges – and all I had to pay was $x – it was done quickly.  We wished each other with happy New Year and hung up cordially.  I was wondering if an angel had sent this woman to me or I was talking to one of the few service people who makes your heart sing.  What was THAT about?

Guess it proves that any woman can connect with another woman other even when they are total strangers.  Isn’t that fabulous and surprising?  Right now, if Cathy Green, my Fabulous blog partner is reading this she is shaking her head and saying: “that isn’t surprising at all for you Patty – for anyone else, yes, a total shock”.

Someone I know is going through a divorce.  Yes, getting divorced over Christmas is only slightly less disturbing than the absolutely biggest nightmare you can ever imagine. Why anyone would divorce during the holidays is astonishing to me.  Nothing is going right. The players are acting, shall we say, “strangely” and the fallout is breaking hearts and confusing even the most even-tempered and spiritual of the inner circle.  Do people have to been so cruel to each other NOW – as one of the toughest years ever is ending?  It is breaking my heart that I can’t help the situation.

A friend I met through church is retiring and also having a big birthday.  I thought that I could be so helpful to her now – after all, I am a life coach (does the phrase ‘who cares’ come to mind?).  Point being I thought “she needed me”.  We had a great lunch – she was everything fun, mature, thoughtful, loving, sophisticated in her thinking and offering some solid advice to ME about handling a few things.  So much for me being needed – my lunch FOR my friend was a surprise – it was a lunch WITH one fabulous woman who I obviously needed to listen to.  Not that I didn’t already know that.  But still.

And then there was a long overdue call with a friend from back east, who unfortunately had a bad fall down some hard to see steps early in December and was recovering.  A surprising event for anyone; but the accident itself seemed sadly typical of 2016.  But here is the really surprising thing: my friend’s accident seemed to not just be a royally painful episode in her life, but had a transformative positive effect on her personally. It opened her up to learning and healing in a way that was going to definitely redefine 2017 for her. Yikes – someone actually DOES turn lemons into lemonade.

The last days of 2016 aren’t exactly comforting.  Could there be more of living life in a salad spinner coming up in 2017?  I am not sure what’s ahead, and I do want to wish everyone love, peace and hope in the New Year.  It seems to me that maybe our old standbys like loving ourselves, giving ourselves a break, being there for others and not expecting to be able to solve their issues, and to just trying to lighten up our hearts to hear and experience the unexpected with grace is going to be the very best we can do.  But you know my dear fabulous women, this list is more than enough.

We aren’t the center of the world anymore – let’s take one of the REAL benefits of aging: letting the next generation figure out how to make things work as we enter 2017.  While we don’t want to just have our lives be waiting for a Publisher’s Clearing House contest to make it all better, a little bit of the old song “what will be will be” is in order.

Don’t let that scare you like it scared our parents.  Just try your best to have a happy new year!  Trust me, 2017 is going to be fabulous.  That would be a wonderful and much-welcomed surprise we really need.

Patty

Christmas Gift Buying: Did It Really Used To Be More Fun?

As I wandered around shopping for gifts today … online that is, not at the mall… I started to get nostalgic for the good old days when I would stroll purposefully from store to store looking for perfect gifts for my family and friends.

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There were always some “special” gifts to shop for during those years.

When my mother was still living, for example, I would buy her several gifts from four or five stores.  One gift, at least, would be something she wouldn’t expect like a silky bathrobe, a new watch or a beautiful sweater that wasn’t in her budget.

Then there was my girlfriend Patty. She and I exchanged Christmas gifts for many years before deciding a few years ago that we had about everything we needed at this age and that we would only exchange birthday presents.  Before that, however, I was always trying to find the perfect gift for her at boutiques, or Saks or Nordstrom’s. It had to be different, it had to be classy and it had to be great.

(I can’t decide if the gift hunting for Patty or for my mom was hardest – it was probably a tie. Patty said she had the same issues buying gifts for me.)

In the early days of our starry-eyed romance, when we were struggling financially as we started a new company, gift-giving between me and my husband Ray was special. He loved to surprise me; I loved to surprise him. He once bought me a size small vest that could have fit me when I was 10 years old – maybe.  I liked the fact that he saw me as a small woman even though I’ve never been one.  And, I once proudly presented him with an expensive brown cashmere sweater, which he said he loved but never wore.  I now know brown is his least favorite color. We had so much fun shopping for one another that we would even take $20 on Christmas Eve day, ride together to the mall, go our separate ways for thirty minutes and shop for stocking stuffers. So romantic!

By the way, Ray and I have only had one rule over the years:  no more than 5 gifts.  He has always given me at least 8 gifts and I’ve always stuck to the rules (which tells you a lot about us).

Presents under our tree last year – almost all of them for me and Ray. Someone cheated. Hint: It wasn’t me.

Presents under our tree last year – almost all of them for me and Ray. Someone cheated. Hint: It wasn’t me.

And then there were Ray’s two daughters, their husbands and our five grandchildren who came into the picture in the 90’s and 00’s.  It was such fun to shop for all of them! Beautiful sweaters, blouses and jewelry for the girls or sometimes household items like serving platters that they wouldn’t buy for themselves as they started out in their new lives with husbands and babies.  There were also carefully chosen shirts and pullovers for the guys. And, we’d buy toys and more toys for the grandkids. (We still cringe about the time we bought one of the first life-sized dolls that could be “programmed” to talk. It was even able to say Happy Birthday to your grandchild on the correct day of the year. When our granddaughter woke up the day after Christmas and the doll said “Let’s play”, she got scared, said the doll was too bossy and refused to play with it again. Obviously, grandma and grandpa had gone overboard.)

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In my memory, I had a great time searching for all of these gifts, along with presents for my siblings, nieces and nephews, several employees and a few friends. I would go from store to store, smiling at little kids on Santa’s lap, enjoying the ringing of Salvation Army bells in the distance, being part of the hustle and bustle of the Christmas crowd, and inhaling chocolate, cinnamon and evergreen scents swirling in the air.

If I’m really honest about this whole gift buying thing, however, I spent a lot of time agonizing over finding the right gifts and even more time getting irritable as my feet started to hurt, as the shopping bags got heavier and heavier and as I stood in line behind people trying to use a $5.00 off coupon that expired two months ago.

And I’m not even going to talk about gift-wrapping, other than to say that Ray would conveniently find something else to do far from the house when I started getting out the paper, bows and scotch tape. No amount of Christmas music or scented candles ever got me in a good enough mood to wrap what seemed liked hundreds of gifts at the dining room table with an aching back.

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So, maybe I’m not that nostalgic. Online shopping is easy and fast. I can quickly scan a lot of options, I can use an auto-fill function to put in my address and credit card numbers, and I can even get things gift-wrapped and sent directly to my relatives and friends – with delivery tracking included.

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These days, the teenage grandchildren want gift cards anyway.

Ray’s daughters, now in their 40’s,  have all the clothes and household items they need, so restaurant or entertainment gift cards purchased online seem to work well for them and their husbands.

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Ray and I still buy gifts for each other, but let’s just say we give each other a lot of coaching and “hints” about what to buy, then act surprised on Christmas morning. By now, he knows the clothing brands I like, and I know his. I tell him every year that I’m allergic to wool. He tells me every year he doesn’t need underwear. We get gift receipts. We talk about how many gifts to exchange. He still doesn’t stick to the rules. We buy about half of our presents for each other online and watch carefully for the boxes being delivered to our door so that only the addressee opens them.

So, I’ve been asking myself. Do I really miss shopping malls? Santa? Salvation Army bell ringers? Mingling with busy shoppers in various states of good and bad cheer?

Not so much.

But what I do miss is coming home exhausted but satisfied after finding those few perfect gifts for the very special people in my life – gifts chosen with love and care and sore feet!

Cathy Green

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Hurrah – It’s December!

I am really hoping we can go back to being fabulous this December.  That means understated but caring buying, sending good wishes by any means possible and respecting any approach to celebrating the religious or non-religious meaning of the ending year, and the start of a new one.  And of course, enjoying the heck out of YOUR traditions from stringing lights to giving to charity.

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November can be a cruel month.  Remember November 22, 1963 and President Kennedy’s assassination?  Of course you do.  It is a classic, tragic, shared boomer memory.  President Kennedy’s death united us all.  And much of what we began to understand as “fabulous” was defined by his young widow’s grace and dignity in her own, and the country’s, loss.  Jackie was a woman many of us began to admire greatly for her public restraint and calm.  Of course she was devastated, but she was private in her grief.  If social media existed, we can’t imagine Jackie sharing anything but short poignant statements and calls for healing.

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This November’s election was the shocker of our political lives.  Whether you are a Trump or Clinton voter, things this month have been tense, weird, and more than a bit confusing.

I never prayed so much for help to NOT SAY what I so desperately wanted to say; and, for the wisdom and guidance on what to say to my friends and family no matter how they voted. I had a few harsh words with one of my closest friends which I quickly regretted. A few minutes on social media demonstrated that standards of being elegant, restrained, and otherwise fabulous were much less common if not non-existent.  Seeing some “reactions” to events this month, made me, the eternal optimist of human positive behavior, feel fabulousness was perhaps a lost dream that our own daughters, nieces, and grands would never be able to emulate.  Yikes – November must end!

But wait, there’s more – as they say on infomercials. My business partner called to tell me he had been injured over Thanksgiving weekend, on the mend but in pain.  A member of my family who shall remain nameless had one of those dysfunctional family holidays that may win Bill and my annual prize for the most ridiculous family event in 2016.  A close business associate shared that her company was turning upside down with a complete new CEO and team — she’s the CIO trying to keep it all working.  Being fabulous? Taking things in stride? Seeing humor and hope in every event – however odd, hurtful or just stupid?  November has tested us.

But, as noted, I am THE eternal optimist.  I believe we CAN be fabulous again this December by getting quiet before all the hoopla and listening to our higher selves whisper to us – ‘it is all OK’.  We need to remember fabulous women we admire – from Notorious RBG – the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, to the shining star Jennifer Lawrence, who keeps showing Hollywood that women do deserve the same rewards as men, and are still at full speed fabulousness.  There are women being fabulous in business, non-profits, politics, fashion, and just leading ordinary lives.  What they all have in common is calm, grace and a focus on what they can control; and most importantly in this self-important, post-truth time, not taking themselves too seriously.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Jennifer Lawrence

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Jennifer Lawrence

My dear friend Betty and I spoke this morning.  We agreed it is time to “think local” and get involved – seriously involved – in what matters to us.  That and of course, continuing to try to feel great, look great, and give thanks for all our blessings – while having a sense of humor about ourselves.  People who lack a sense of humor and can’t laugh at themselves will never be fabulous.

I never thought I would be looking forward to the rush: writing too many Christmas cards, shopping and trimming the tree. Whatever the world is up to, I am not reading about it as avidly as I did pre-November.  Rather I am sending light and prayers to help situations I cannot control.  Then I sit down and have a great glass of wine, alone or with friends – and strategize about new ways to keep being fabulous in December.

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Here’s to tinsel – shiny but completely uncomplicated!  And Netflix, thank God we can binge watch series’ between stressful moments.  Happy December everyone!!

Patty

More Fabulous Holiday Traditions

Cathy got me thinking about getting into a great mood for Christmas with her reminder to love “what is” versus what should/could/won’t or otherwise can’t be for the holidays. Deciding to love “what is” this season and reminding ourselves of what we are most thankful for is the first holiday decision worth making.

Here’s a few more fabulous ideas that I am planning on doing . . .

  • Remembering my elderly Aunt and Uncle (95 and 100), a dear friend who had serious cancer surgery, another who lost her husband, and even the woman who years ago took care of my aging parents before they died back in 2003 are first on my list of doing and/or/getting something for.
  • Calling at least 5 people this month that I typically do not and surprise them with time on the phone to catch up and share. Rather than a card, these are people who I just didn’t have time for this year but deserve my time and attention – especially if I hope to keep them in my circle of friends. Just got a surprise call myself and loved it – and interestingly it was from a fabulous guy over 60!
  • Keep reading the New York Times every day and skipping watching any news on devices – that is on TV or computer or on my phone. When you can’t sleep thinking one of the people you watched on a debate will be our next president, don’t blame me – I will be sleeping thinking that the universe/God/someone will create an election result that makes sense. None of these people will be under my skin or in my brain because I refuse to watch them!
  • Keep writing notes and cards through the 31st of the month if need be – a few a day. And again, say something to people: share one thing I’ve/we’ve learned or experienced (like emptying our house and changing home base), wish them well on something they had happen. I figure a personal note will mean more even if late than the perfect photo card on time.
  • Look fresh, put together and festive when I can this holiday every time I leave my home. Few here in Tucson are listening to me on this one. This is our new home base. I think many women here post 60 don’t even think about how they look and appear to others. No one will convince me that how you look and present yourself does not matter. It does if you want to be fabulous.

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  • Give generously to anyone homeless, or looking distressed. I want to smile, and act like we are participating in this world and are responsible for it. Because we are.

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  • Giving myself a special, unique and fabulous gift. I have decided that my gift to me is to treat myself with the same love and kindness I treat others with – that is going to be hard for me. Just being me for so long has made me a bit compulsive and other directed – those that know me, including Cathy are now saying “a bit?????”
  • Am going to support every one of you fabulous women who have the same or an entirely different list, or just aren’t sure yet what being fabulous means to you this holiday season.

Being fabulous is actually getting clearer to me. It remains – like the success, lessons learned or achievements of our pasts – something that takes work, commitment and a sense of purpose and direction. Nothing comes easy – in fact, I am finding the older I get (66 this January) the harder it is to be fabulous. But that gives me/us something to strive for: to look as fresh and sharp as we can, to keep being kind – not giving up on ourselves or others because we have our shortcomings physically and mentally.

Happy fabulous Christmas/holiday/season of joy. Thanks for supporting me/us in being fabulous. Cathy and I appreciate it and consider it a gift of motivation from all of you. Our gift to you is to keep writing. Ideas always welcomed this holiday or any day.

Patty

 

I’m in a Bah-Humbug Kind of Mood and it’s Time to Change My Mind

It’s the second week of December and I’m not yet into the Christmas spirit.

Ray says that I go through this every year and that I just need a few more days. Hmmm.

When you’re a kid, Christmas can’t get here soon enough. The 365 days until it’s time to decorate the tree again, watch anxiously for snow, count the days until school is out, and hope you get the presents you want seems like an eternity.

At this age, it seems like Christmas was yesterday. Wasn’t I just recently sending cards to friends, trying to figure out what to get the five grand-kids and getting irritated by loud, inane TV commercials?

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I really don’t want to be a curmudgeon about Christmas. It has always been my favorite holiday. I love the smell of a Blue Spruce tree in the living room, the soft glow of lights around the house, poinsettias everywhere and the chill in the air.

So why am I not in the mood for Christmas?

Maybe it’s the news. It’s certainly not easy to be happy when so many bad, sad things are happening around the world and in our own country.

Maybe it’s politics. The “race” for the presidency this year is a slow, agonizing slog… no one on either side makes me want to ring bells of joy.

Maybe it’s buying presents for teenagers. The five grand-kids want gift cards. Period. How boring.

Maybe it’s because I couldn’t find a Christmas card I liked … even though there are thousands of them to choose from.

Maybe it’s the impersonal feeling of buying things online. It’s easy, sure. But there’s no touching and feeling the gifts (one of my favorite things), there’s no temptation to pick up impulse gifts, and there’s no satisfied feeling of carrying shopping bags to the car in the crisp late afternoon air.

Maybe it’s the busy about being busy syndrome, feeling inundated with a lot of “stuff to do”.

Or… maybe it’s just me being nostalgic for the good old days.

Whatever the case, I’ve still got a couple of weeks, so here’s what I’ve decided to do to get me out of my bah-humbug mood:

  • I’ve planned three outings to sites that are Christmas-y. I’m lucky to live in Asheville NC, so one of those outings will be to a Candlelight Christmas evening at the Biltmore House. The lighted trees, carolers and musicians throughout the house are magical. In addition, an evening walk through the NC Arboretum’s Winter Lights show is part of my plan, as well as driving through the holiday lights display at the NC Agricultural Center.
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Biltmore House on the Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina

  • I’m going to attend and enjoy several parties during the holidays, and I’m having one of my own with lots of sweets and some new holiday music.
  • I’m going to spend several hours shopping with Ray for a couple of gifts. We used to surprise each other with presents under the tree. These days, we’d rather have things we can actually use and enjoy the experience of shopping together.
  • I’m going to write holiday greetings on Christmas cards, stamp them and send them to people I like — old-fashioned as that is.
  • I’m going to buy the grand-kids’ gift cards … but I’m also going to send each of them a book chosen especially for them. I’ll feel better about sending something unique to each of them (while doing my part to keep real books in circulation.)

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  • I’m going to contribute more than I had planned to a favorite local charity before the end of the month, and I’ll put money into any Salvation Army bucket I see.
  • I’m going to reach out to family and close friends to let them know I love them.

And, most of all, I’m going to be consciously grateful for what I have – rather than what I don’t. A beautiful home, a wonderful partner, a fire in the fireplace, a Blue Ridge mountains “eye party” out my window, a healthy and happy family, great music and friends and fun times together …..

Bah-humbug? Me? Never mind!

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Cathy Green

One Last Magical Night with Santa

Growing up in the 50’s, I loved everything about Christmas: the chilly Cincinnati weather; the fragrant freshly-cut tree in our living room decorated with soft glowing multi-colored lights, glass ornaments, tinsel and icicles; the possibility of snow on Christmas Eve; the anticipation of school vacation; Christmas carols on the kitchen radio; sugar cookies shaped like snowmen; the Andy Williams Christmas Show and Santa. Especially Santa.

Such a wonderful, magical man who could fly through the sky with his reindeer, sneak into our homes when we weren’t looking and bring beautifully wrapped presents to us because we had been good — dolls and toys and bicycles and jewelry boxes and musical instruments and more. It was so exciting!

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As the 50’s were coming to an end and my 10th birthday was getting closer, I began to hear rumors that Santa wasn’t real. Some of my grade school friends bragged about knowing for sure that the North Pole, the elves, the sleigh, the reindeer and Santa himself were made-up stories. I didn’t say anything. My 11 year old sister believed. My 6 year old brother believed. I believed, too. Mostly.

But I started paying closer attention.

Christmas Eve, as long as I could remember, started with three hyper-excited kids getting dressed in our Christmas outfits, coats, gloves and boots to walk next door to the neighbor’s house. Hazel, Lillian and Florence lived there – two sisters and a friend. People called them “old maids” at the time… and they were definitely old. At least 45! Hazel was the cook and back-scratcher, Lillian was the drill sergeant with the hearty laugh and Florence was the quiet knitter who made us pink, blue and yellow “booties” each year for Christmas. Because they were alone with no kids and few relatives, Mom and Dad always accepted their invitation to Christmas Eve dinner.

Although we kids were much too excited to eat, we were keen to get to their house because that was when Santa would know that he could sneak into the house and leave our presents. Every year, after dinner, carols and the exchange of presents with the ladies, we would throw on our coats, jump into our boots and run back over to our house. Every single time, Santa had snuck in during that couple of hours and eaten our cookies, finished his milk and left lots and lots of shiny packages under the tree.

Cathy in the early 50’s at Lillian’s house with a new doll and a horn.

Cathy in the early 50’s at Lillian’s house with a new doll and a horn.

That year, 1959, I was watching closely. Just as we were about to leave to go to Lillian’s house, Dad said he’d forgotten to check the furnace and that he would be there soon. It occurred to me that dad was always the last to leave the house. Every year there seemed to be something he had forgotten to do or a call he had to make. Before, it hadn’t been a big deal. This year, I was very, very suspicious. Checking the furnace on Christmas Eve?

I spent a lot of time with Hazel as she cooked dinner that year so that I could keep a lookout through their kitchen window. It was directly across from my living room window and I knew that Santa would have to walk by to place the presents under our tree.

Dad finally arrived and it was time to take the turkey out of the oven and sit down to eat. I decided to sneak one more peek and… there he was! A big man dressed in red in my house, bending over to place our presents under the tree. I shrieked! It’s him! There’s Santa!

My brother and sister and mom and dad came running to the window. Brother Tom saw him. Sister Chris wasn’t sure. Mom said she couldn’t see anything. But, my dad saw Santa. Yep, that’s him, he said.

I was delirious with joy. Santa was real. He was in my house. I ran outside to see if I could spot the sleigh and reindeer …I must have missed them, but it didn’t matter. I had seen Santa!

When we finally opened the door to our house that night, the presents were piled everywhere. The cookies were gone. The milk glass was empty. It was an evening full of smiles, exciting new toys and presents for everyone!

By the following Christmas, mom and dad had told me that Santa wasn’t real. They said that I should keep the secret so that baby brother Tom could still believe.

But I saw him! And so did Tom. And so did you, Dad! I protested.

Dad explained that he and mom had figured it out later that night. Apparently, Hazel – a heavyset woman who wore a bright red dress that year – had been bending over the oven to remove the turkey just as I looked out the window. The right timing, the right lighting and my 10 year-old desire to believe produced the reflection that became my miracle.

Now, so many Christmases later, I remember how clearly I saw Santa that night and how magical it was. Who knows, maybe dad and mom were wrong. Santa still seems to know where I live because gifts keep showing up under my tree every year!

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Cathy Green

‘Tis the Season! Let’s Hug!

This week, I found myself hugging my hair stylist, my nail tech and a friend of a friend who I had met for less than one hour. Last week, I hugged my personal trainer to wish him a Happy Thanksgiving. At a cocktail party about a week ago, I hugged at least 20 people. While the other person often made the first move, I did my share of moving in for the body grab myself.

I admit it — I like all of this hugging. I always loved hugging my parents, aunts and uncles when I was growing up. I love hugging the grandkids and their parents now. Of course, I love hugging Ray and my dog, Lexie, every day.

These days, there is a lot of hugging going on outside of funerals and immediate families. In fact, over the years … the last 10-15 especially, I think – we have gotten used to seeing hugging in all kinds of new situations. Here’s a case in point:

Former U.S. president George W. Bush embraces President Barack Obama during the inauguration ceremony in Washington

A little awkward, perhaps?

Yes, more hugging can lead to more awkward moments. I’ve had a few of those myself.

  • The guy who had a little too much to drink at the cocktail party and decided to give me a full body hug that lasted a little too long. I don’t think his wife was amused.
  • The friend who likes to run his hands up and down my back when he hugs me. Next time, I’m going to ask him what he’s searching for.
  • The friend who hugged me sideways and began to fall … almost taking me with her.
  • The woman I didn’t know who hugged me and gave me an air kiss and then realized she didn’t know me either.
  • And, the guy who planted a big wet kiss on my lips along with the hug. I sincerely hope that doesn’t become a trend.

Hugging old and new friends at parties is one thing. Business environments are a little more confusing. Is it now OK for men and women co-workers to hug? If so, when? What about customers? Are they in the OK “hugging zone”? Who initiates a business hug? What’s the protocol? And what about group hugs?

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We seem to need some new hugging rules! Emily Post, where are you?

Speaking of Emily, when I googled “hugging” this video below popped up. It’s about the first hug given to Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the NFL, during the football draft in 2010. Social etiquette history in the making! Emily Post’s great, great grandson, Daniel Post Senning, gives his opinion in the video. (Hint: a “bro hug” might be better than a full-on hug).

Hugging isn’t going to go away any time soon. For those of us who like to give and receive hugs, that’s a good thing. But, if you happen to be a hugger hater, or a hugger over-thinker, or an Only When Someone Dies hugger, you might want to reconsider.

Some research suggests that there are health benefits from hugs … reduction in blood pressure, strengthening of the immune system, boosting of self-esteem and relaxation of muscles, to name a few.

And, as we head into the Christmas season, remember:

“A hug is a great gift – one size fits all, and it’s easy to exchange”

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Happy Holidays! Hugs to all!

Cathy Green

 

Photo credit: here

When Is It Time to Throw Stuff Out?

I’ve been in a cleaning mood lately. It’s probably a combination of this early winter weather (cold enough to stay indoors) and my pent-up guilt about the many boxes of “stuff” in the attic that we brought to our new home three years ago.

Here’s what my attic looks like…..

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I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy to decide what to throw away and what to keep, but it’s been much worse than I expected. And, I’ve realized that my age has something to do with that.

Here’s what I have to deal with:

• Dozens of boxes of pictures (printed before online storage) from my 25 years with Ray
• Another dozen cartons of photos from Ray’s previous life and mine, and more left to us by our parents
• Old Christmas cards, some containing notes and family photos
• Lots of cards and notes from Ray
• Letters and mementos from my college years and former jobs
• Several notes from old boyfriends
• Cards and notes from my friend Patty and a couple of other girlfriends
• Hundreds of CD’s and DVD’s (and books that I can’t fit on my bookshelves)
• Old bills, tax records and receipts
• Other miscellaneous weird stuff, including two files marked “stuff I like”!!

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I decided to tackle one large box of paper files first. I was exhausted in less than two hours.

The old bills and tax records from the 80’s and 90’s were easy. Out they went.

The old receipts … wait… should I keep that receipt for the watch I bought in 1992? How about the one for that expensive St. John jacket? No, it would take hours to go through them. Toss them!

Cards, notes and letters from Ray? Of course they stay!

Old work and college stuff? Toss it all.

Old Christmas cards and photo cards? I haven’t finished with these yet.

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A poem from a college boyfriend I haven’t seen or talked to in 45 years? I read it one more time, smiled and tossed it out.

An apology letter from my first husband for being such a jerk? I read it, grimaced and tossed it.

Then I found something that was harder to deal with.

It was a copy of a letter I had written to my mother when I was 29, trying to explain to her why I got divorced and how I was now “in love” with an older man. I have had that letter for 35 years and although it is well-written (if I have to say so myself), it is definitely not an example of my proudest moment. At 29, what did I know? A sad story, finger pointing and hurt feelings. Although I couldn’t really re-capture those feelings, the letter did remind me about the ups and downs of my relationship with my mom over the years.

But, now what? Keep it? Throw it away?

I’m 64. If I keep it … will I look at it again when I’m 74, 84, 94? If so, why? Should the one point in time reflected in this letter stick around as long as I do?

If I had kids, would I keep the letter for them? Would it help them figure out who I was at 29? Would I want them to? And, would they really care?

If I throw it away … am I letting go of an important memory about who I was? Or am I doing the right thing so that someone else doesn’t have to go through these kind of things when I’m gone?

I obviously kept stuff like this letter all these years in order to revisit my earlier life at some point in my later life.

But now I am in my later life.

Ultimately, I decided that I didn’t need to keep the letter to my mom. But I know there will be more of these decisions as I continue to tackle those boxes in my attic.

When is it too soon to throw things from the past away? I really don’t know, but I’m moving on to photos next week.

I’m already exhausted.

Cathy

p.s. Patty … I kept some great notes from you, girlfriend!

Christmas Cards … Are They Optional?

Last January I wrote this blog about Christmas cards. I was reminded of it last week when I was re-reading the cards we received.  Ray and I sent at least as many cards this year as last year, and received about the same number from friends, family and co-workers. I enjoyed every one of them – especially those with notes —  and I am even becoming pretty fond of the family photo cards. We did NOT receive many electronic cards this year, so maybe that’s not a growing trend? Hmm….

Before the 2012 holiday season is too far behind us, I wanted to blog about sending holiday cards – addressed, stamped and mailed by the United States Post Office.

A few weeks before Christmas, Patty asked me if I planned to send cards this year. I was surprised by her question since I have never really considered NOT sending cards. Yes, I complain about it every year when the time comes to write notes, stick stamps and return address labels on envelopes, and haul them to a mailbox. But holiday greetings have always seemed like an important part of Christmas to me.

Patty said that over the past few years, she has been sending many more cards than she has been receiving and that younger people are ditching the tradition altogether.  So, I paid attention this year.

My husband and I sent about 200 cards. Fifty were sent to employees, the rest to friends and family.

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We received about 100 cards, which means that a fairly large number of our greetings were not returned. Hmm…  There were a few “e-cards” … not many, but more than last year… and I did notice fewer cards from younger people (the ones who sent cards sent the family photo kind, primarily).

I went online to search for statistics and found a recent blog called Sending Christmas Cards: A Dying Tradition.

Here is an excerpt:

Research shows that the pre-baby boomer generations felt so strongly about sending Christmas cards during the holiday season that the average family sent around 300 cards ………..But in recent years, numbers for greeting cards have dwindled. Large companies like Hallmark Greeting Card Company report a 33.7% decrease since 2007 in the numbers of Christmas cards purchased each year. And in a recent survey at Parenting Magazine, only 22% of all households said that they would be sending out traditional Christmas cards………Last year, the American Greeting Card Association compiled numbers that show that Americans on average only sent 8 cards per household……………

I haven’t been able to verify these stats … but it does seem as if Christmas cards might be going the way of letter writing.  I find it sad …it was a tradition I grew up with and still enjoy.

How about you?

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